Review – Jiggery Pokery, Battersea Arts Centre

Saturday 5 December 2009

Here’s a brain teaser for you: WEW favourite and Kneehigh regular Amanda Lawrence plays comedy legend Charles Hawtrey (and about 50 other roles besides) in an 80 minute one-woman show. Why on earth would Phil not be there?

Could it be something to do with that old, inconvenient art-holding-a-mirror-up-to-life thing? What could it be that strikes fear into Phil in the true story story of a sad has-been who spends his days pickled in gin, is despised by his neighbours for his drunken foul language, insists on writing cheques to pay for his cab fares while making drunken passes at the cabby and is barred from every public house in the area?

It doesn’t do to dwell on such questions so we shall move swiftly on.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame, because Phil would have loved it. Lawrence can contort her face into a spookily convincing resemblance to the real Hawtrey and she has mastered every mannerism and intonation.

The play is a whistle-stop tour of Hawtrey’s life from child actor as a lost boy in Peter Pan for the real Sir Charles Hawtrey – “”rehearsals start at 8am. Stage door. Holborn Empire. Bring tights” – through the Will Hay films, the wilderness years, the Carry On films though to his enforced retirement in the Kent seaside town of Deal.

Lawrence plays every part including Sid James, Lord Delfont, Barbara Windsor, Dick an Dyke, Laurence Olivier and Will Hay) and while it is a great showcase for her considerable comic talents Andrew found the experience rather too frenetic at times. In one scene Lawrence plays Hawtrey, his mother and Madame Italia Conti, racing between positions and donning props or costume to deliver very short lines of dialogue. Andrew found it all  a bit wearing and would have had to sit down were he not already doing so. There was so much jigging about that Andrew was forced to reverse Hawtrey’s famous Carry On Doctor aphorism to “I don’t mind the pokery, but I do take exception to jiggery”.

Perhaps Miss Lawrence should consider making the next version a two-hander to alleviate some of the franticness and give her a bit more leisure time. Or better still, this would make a superb piece for TV where Lawrence could play all the characters but without all the running about thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

But regardless of all that Jiggery Pokery is very well worth seeing not only for the great clowning but also for Ms Lawrence’s portrayal of a man who never succeeded in outgrowing the role of his mother’s little boy.

Still wondering why couldn’t Phil face this one?


An excuse for some footage of the great man himself (Hawtrey, not Phil).


With Kenneth Williams in Carry On Constable:

With Sid James in Carry on Cabby:

Carry On Nurse:


Hawtrey as Dracula, guest on the TV kids show Runaround (hosted by Mike Reid) in the 1970s:

A drunk Hawtrey being interviewed by Roy Hudd in about 1984:


Q. What is Andrew’s favourite Carry On film?

A. Carry On Cabby.


3 Responses to “Review – Jiggery Pokery, Battersea Arts Centre”

  1. JohnnyFox Says:

    Quite agree Lawrence needed a foil for some of the scenes but it was very interesting.

    The archive footage shows how transitory fame was even in the 60s/70s, now it’s here and gone in a nanosecond and with the peaks higher and the troughs lower I’m sure leaving more ‘stars’ embittered in their post-glory days.

    Adam (Batman) West is now a cab driver.

  2. Might try to catch this. Saw a one-man piece about Hawtrey a few years ago at Edinburgh, which was very depressing. This sounds much more energetic.

    Carry on Cabby certainly has the best soundtrack to any Carry On film.

  3. craig Says:

    Charles Hawtrey was my favourite in the carry on films then it would have to be the great sid james and kenneth Williams in joint second.

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